Hong Kong residents protest outside the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Central on Aug 14, 2018 against the club inviting Hong Kong national party convener Andy Chan Ho-tin to dissmeinate his separatist views. (ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY)
HONG KONG - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ top representative in Hong Kong urged the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club on Tuesday to stop harming national security under the guise of freedom of the press and speech.
The advocacy of Hong Kong independence does not fall into the domain of freedom of speech as it violates the Constitution, the Basic Law and relevant laws in the city, the office stressed
The censure came in a statement issued by the Commissioner’s Office of the MFA in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, expressing its “indignation and condemnation”, after local pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin, founder of Hong Kong National Party, delivered a speech at the FCC in Central.
The country’s Constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law guarantee freedom of speech, the office stressed. After 70 years in Hong Kong, the FCC must acknowledge that Hong Kong’s freedom of the press is fully protected.
However, freedom entails certain limits and bottom lines, it added.
The advocacy of Hong Kong independence does not fall into the domain of freedom of speech as it violates the Constitution, the Basic Law and relevant laws in the city, the office stressed.
The Article 19 of United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, but the right may be subject to certain restrictions provided by law and when necessary for the protection of national security or public order, the office noted.
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The office said all countries have their own limits on freedom of speech despite different social realities and legal systems. It is unacceptable to invite war criminals from World War II to deliver a public speech in France, the office said, and Germany would never allow any party to give believers in Nazism the floor.
Moreover, no country would allow foreign organizations to invite separatists to spread notions of independence and violence.
By providing a platform for an independence advocate, the FCC intruded on Hong Kong’s rule of law and abused freedom of the press, the office said.
The central government, Hong Kong SAR Government and all Chinese people will not allow Hong Kong independence advocates and the FCC to cross a red line and the bottom line of sovereignty and national security, it stressed.
The central government firmly supports the SAR government to deal with the issues on HKNP in accordance with the law, the office added.
It urged the FCC to reflect on its take, abide by the laws of the country and Hong Kong, and respect the feelings of Chinese people.
During the speech, several local groups gathered outside the FCC in Central to protest Chan’s speech and the FCC’s role in the talk. Protesters condemned the advocacy of Hong Kong independence. They also called for local legislation on the national security law.
Chan’s HKNP is the only political party in the city that explicitly advocates Hong Kong independence. And Chan has said that violence is an option to reach that goal if it is effective to “make them heard”.
The party is now facing a proposed government ban on operations for its possible breach of the Societies Ordinance.
The FCC said in a previous statement that hosting such events does not mean it either endorses or opposes the views of the speakers but it believes its members and the public at large have the right to hear the views of different sides in any debate.
Previously, the FCC had invited a number of controversial names to give speeches, including Tibet separatism activist Dawa Tsering.
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